The Bishop of Ebbsfleet's September Pastoral Letter

Electing a New General Synod

In my August Pastoral Letter, I said that I should continue to reflect on current issues in the September letter. Normally one looks for a different, and unrelated topic, but these are not normal times. We have seen the dissolution of the 2005–2010 General Synod and with it the dispersion of its ‘Catholic Group in General Synod’, one of the informal groupings in the Synod. New elections will take place shortly and the 2010–2015 General Synod will be inaugurated by the Queen in November. As happens every five years, there will be an inaugural meeting of the new ‘Catholic Group’ and people will be counting up how many are in the Group, bishops, clergy and laity, and what kind of line they will be taking. That much is predictable and the pattern for it long-established. The officers of the ‘Catholic Group’ will already be in place (provided they have managed themselves to be elected to the Synod) and the Chairman will already have a sense of the direction in which he will want to lead the Group.

Until the July 2010 vote, the second catastrophic vote for Anglo-catholics in three years, there was a division of opinion. One section wanted, on principle, to vote down the women bishops’ legislation completely, on the grounds that Catholic Faith and Order does not traditionally admit women to holy orders and the Church of England has no more competence to change the tradition than it has to change the bible, the creeds, or the sacraments. This section still sees its duty to witness to the Catholic Faith, as the Church of England has received it, and not to give up until the ‘final approval’ vote is lost in 2012 (if, indeed, it is lost). The ‘final approval’ vote on women bishops will need a two-thirds majority in each of the three houses of Synod and it is possible, of course, that it will not clear this hurdle in all three houses. (One projection is that it might fail in the house of laity).

The second section of opinion, broadly that of Forward in Faith, was that women bishops are inevitable sooner or later, because of the admission of women to the orders of deacon and priest, and that what is needed is a proper framework, proper provision, for those who maintain the historic and traditional view. The sooner the better. Forward in Faith favoured a free province, but three separate dioceses would amount to that, and that was firmly defeated in July. The archbishops’ amendment also might have permitted some sort of framework to be built on statutory transfer of jurisdiction. That was narrowly lost on a vote of houses. (It is hard to build a Catholic ecclesiology, incidentally, on a system which allows priests and deacons to vote down the attempts of archbishops and bishops in areas of Faith and Order. Are the procedures of General Synod in any sense ‘Catholic’?) What is apparently on offer, intended to meet the needs of this section of opinion, is a ‘code of practice’. Bishops and all who exercise patronage would agree to behave honourably and try to both respect people’s needs and their deeply-held beliefs.

Following the July 2010 vote, this second section of opinion has had to do some fresh thinking. Forward in Faith assemblies have chanted, as ‘the response to the psalm’, ‘A code of practice will not do’. Anglo-catholics are programmed then to reject a code of practice and it is important to understand why. For one thing, codes of practice are advisory and not mandatory. Discretion, discernment, goodwill, and good sense are all necessary for codes of practice to work. Catholic orders and sacraments cannot depend on discretion, discernment, goodwill, and good sense. Indeed a major characteristic of Catholic orders and sacraments is that they exist regardless of any of these things, even if some of these things are necessary for them to be of benefit to the faithful. Whatever it is, the Eucharist, celebrated by someone not in the historic succession, or not using the right elements or words, and not having the right intention, is not a Catholic sacrament. The same is true of Absolution, Confirmation, Ordination, and the Blessing of Oils. The argument here is not about the sex of the celebrant. Anglo-catholics (unlike many in the Church of England) have exactly the same problem with non-conformist ministers and lay presidents as they do with women clergy. What we need, we say, is ‘sacramental certainty’, a matter which the Chairman of the Catholic Group, Canon Simon Killwick, explained lucidly in the Church Times of 30 July 2010. That means that, in sacraments, God is doing something which does not depend on our response, though it invites our response. It happens, as they say, ex opera operato, just because it happens. To think otherwise is not what the Catholic Faith teaches. A code of practice won’t do!

That means that Anglo-catholics who are standing for election for the General Synod, or voting in General Synod elections, are standing, or voting, to defeat the women bishops’ legislation. It is hard to see how, in terms of process, any provision whatsoever could be made now – following the severe set-back in York in July – which allowed women bishops to be consecrated and, at the same time, traditional Anglo-catholics conscientiously to remain in the Church of England. But it ain’t over until it’s over. No-one in November 1992, when the final approval for women priests took place, could have guessed that a few months later the House of Bishops would cobble together the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993, with its promise of a permanent and honoured place for those who could not accept the development.

Some of you will now be asking why I am picking at the carcase rather than just declaring it dead and moving on to embrace the offer of Pope Benedict XVI to Anglicans in Anglicanorum cœtibus. The Pope’s offer is not a bargain basement sale. It isn’t ‘clearance’ or ‘end of roll’ or ‘while stocks last’. Nor is it a rescue plan for shipwrecked Anglo-catholics. It is a way of pursuing the ecumenical journey to which we have been committed for a very long time and it must be considered in its own right. That I propose to do in a third Pastoral Letter in October, the third in a series of letters. Meanwhile I think we continue to pray, reflect, and rest, and, of course, ponder and reflect during the visit of the Pope to England later in September, what we should now do, each one of us. Most of all, as the Holy Father comes among us as the leader of the Christian family, we pray for the coming of the Kingdom and the triumph of the Gospel over the forces of evil and indifference.

May God bless you as you faithfully serve him and his Church.

+Andrew

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About Christian Clay Columba Campbell

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26 thoughts on “The Bishop of Ebbsfleet's September Pastoral Letter

  1. Your Grace Andrew, Bishop of Ebbsfleet-
    Your optimism is commendable but eventually misplaced and all hope will come to naught. 1993 is long gone – them days is over – that train long time not comin'!
    I agree that AC is not a bargain basement offer and that is why I believe so few will embrace. Some will rush to Rome's embrace only to abandon it as soon as the dust settles for a time and they desire the pig pens of home. Some few, who probably have already made their decision because they know Rome is their True Home, will already be preparing for the inevitable. Those who have much to lose may not believe what may be gained will suffice. No one can speak for another.
    All of this deeply saddens me.

  2. What month is it now? It is still early August where I live! A September newsletter? Bishop Andrew appears to be ahead of the pack in more ways than one. His optimism is right. Mathew's pessimism is wrong.

  3. The 'Holy Father' is clearly not the leader of the Christian family. He's just one of the servants of the servants of God.
    Bishop Edwin Barnes has now exposed the fatal split in the catholic group and accused it of lack of leadership. But both he and Bishop Andrew have a narrow and 'club church' view of a rather broader word. Those of us who are catholics would certainly agree that 'God is doing something which does not depend on our response, though it invites our response' and welcome the response that has so far come to God's invitation in the C of E as well as other provinces Anglican Communion – the majority of whom ordain women. Special provisions or not, that's the Communion you are in.

  4. It is hard to see how Bishop Andrew's words can be construed as "optimistic". The July 2010 vote was catastrophic, there is no realistic hope of satisfactory provision for dissenters (though for some "hope springs eternal") and no realistic hope of defeating the legislation outright. So, no optimism about the Synodical process.
    On the other hand, the Pope's offer is on the table and must be considered in its own right as a way of pursuing the ecumenical journey to which we have long been committed, not just as an escape route. I can't wait for the October letter!

  5. To put Neill out of his misery, I am not in the wrong month, nor, for that matter, am I imitating women's magazines, which in the UK at least, sometimes come out a month ahead of their cover designation. I publish the monthly Pastoral Letter on-line in plenty of time, so that editors of parish magazines may make use of it without looking as though they are publishing out-of-date stuff.

    As for Fr Spilsbury's comment, I agree that I am not being 'optimistic'. I think I want to respect the views of those who believe that it isn't over until the completion of the Synodical process and the views of those who think the die was cast in 2008 and, lest there be any doubt, again this year. It was this balance that the Bishops' letter, skilfully crafted on our behalf, sought to do, and to the dismay of advocates of one particular course of action, clearly managed to do. Leadership is sometimes about clarifying choices that people must individually make.

    I fear that Fr Paul will have to be patient for the October letter because I think public comment from me on the Ordinariate in the UK is inopportune until the Pope has returned from the UK to Rome. Meanwhile let us pray that the visit will be a great event for the proclamation of the Gospel and that many will turn to the Lord and take up the Christian pilgrimage.

    + Andrew

    1. Thank you Bishop Andrew for your clear-headedness amidst these events and circumstances.

      I find great consolation in a recent response attributed to our present Holy Father when asked if he was optimistic about the future of the Church (and I paraphrase): I am not optimistic because optimism depends upon humans and human effort, but I am hopeful because hope is a theological virtue which comes from God.

      Let us pray for our brilliant and pastoral Holy Father that through his visit to the UK God may give our brothers and sisters there an abundance of faith, hope and love and a wonderful sense of celebration as he beatifies our patrimonial brother JH Newman. May this event transfigure us all and lead to the reception of many groups and individuals around the world into the full communion of hope which casts out fear.

      J.H. Cardinal Newman ora pro nobis

    2. Dear Father,

      I'd say that clarifying choices is, perhaps, a necessary condition of leadership – but it's by no means a sufficient one (indeed, 'sufficiency' is what we're all after…) Personally, I don't think the letter said anything – and that it didn't reflects division among its authors, which it's not useful for us to know. Many liberal bishops have talked utter crap and behaved disgracefully. I'd prefer a spade to be identified as such…

      Kind wishes.

  6. "[N]o realistic hope of defeating the legislation outright", Fr Paul? It fell well short of attaining in the July Synod the two-thirds majority that it will require in the House of Laity in order to be enacted. Dissuading people from engaging with the Synodical process on the grounds that it is a lost cause is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy, serving only to ensure that the cause will indeed be lost. Regardless of our individual decisions for the future, we owe it to our people to ensure that the catholic cause has the greatest possible representation, especially of laity, in the newly-elected Synod.

  7. >>>Catholic Faith and Order does not traditionally admit women to holy orders and the Church of England has no more competence to change the tradition than it has to change the bible, the creeds, or the sacraments.

    I find this argument, curious. Didn't Christ give to the Church the power of the keys? The power to bind and loose? It simply isn't true that the Church has not dealt with issues of what constitutes Catholicity over the years. Early Christians dealt with how to deal with Gentiles. Should Gentiles first become Jews before becoming Christian? How much of the Torah must be observed?

    The Council of Jerusalem, convened by Christ's brother, abrogated much of the Mosaic law, including the absolute requirement of circumcision. If the Church can deem the essential mark of election — circumcision — which God absolutely, positively, unequivocally ordered Moses to observe, can she not also admit women to the ranks of the Episcopate?

    1. "If the Church can deem the essential mark of election — circumcision — which God absolutely, positively, unequivocally ordered Moses to observe, can she not also admit women to the ranks of the Episcopate?"

      No, as stated irreformably and unalterably by Pope John Paul II in *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis* in May 1994.

      1. J.M.J.

        The applicable part says:

        "…"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful…."

  8. J.M.J.

    Paterian wrote:

    "…The Council of Jerusalem, convened by Christ's brother, abrogated much of the Mosaic law, including the absolute requirement of circumcision…."

    I presume you to not mean to question the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Mother. If so, you place yourself outside of the Catholic Faith.

    I hope you chose these words within the Church's consistent interpretation, consistent with the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Mother.

    SWR

  9. J.M.J.

    Paterian also wrote:

    "…can she not also admit women to the ranks of the Episcopate?…"

    This topic is well and sufficiently addressed in Summa Theologicae in question 39 of the Supplement as follows:

    Article 1. Whether the female sex is an impediment to receiving Orders?
    Objection 1. It would seem that the female sex is no impediment to receiving Orders. For the office of prophet is greater than the office of priest, since a prophet stands midway between God and priests, just as the priest does between God and people. Now the office of prophet was sometimes granted to women, as may be gathered from 2 Kings 22:14. Therefore the office of priest also may be competent to them.

    Objection 2. Further, just as Order pertains to a kind of pre-eminence, so does a position of authority as well as martyrdom and the religious state. Now authority is entrusted to women in the New Testament, as in the case of abbesses, and in the Old Testament, as in the case of Debbora, who judged Israel (Judges 2). Moreover martyrdom and the religious life are also befitting to them. Therefore the Orders of the Church are also competent to them.

    Objection 3. Further, the power of orders is founded in the soul. But sex is not in the soul. Therefore difference in sex makes no difference to the reception of Orders.

    On the contrary, It is said (1 Timothy 2:12): "I suffer not a woman to teach (in the Church),* nor to use authority over the man." [The words in parenthesis are from 1 Corinthians 14:34, "Let women keep silence in the churches."]

    Further, the crown is required previous to receiving Orders, albeit not for the validity of the sacrament. But the crown or tonsure is not befitting to women according to 1 Corinthians 11. Neither therefore is the receiving of Orders.

    I answer that, Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament. Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament. Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus it was stated above (Question 32, Article 2) that in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order. Some, however, have asserted that the male sex is necessary for the lawfulness and not for the validity of the sacrament, because even in the Decretals (cap. Mulieres dist. 32; cap. Diaconissam, 27, qu. i) mention is made of deaconesses and priestesses. But deaconess there denotes a woman who shares in some act of a deacon, namely who reads the homilies in the Church; and priestess [presbytera] means a widow, for the word "presbyter" means elder.

    Reply to Objection 1. Prophecy is not a sacrament but a gift of God. Wherefore there it is not the signification, but only the thing which is necessary. And since in matters pertaining to the soul woman does not differ from man as to the thing (for sometimes a woman is found to be better than many men as regards the soul), it follows that she can receive the gift of prophecy and the like, but not the sacrament of Orders.

    And thereby appears the Reply to the Second and Third Objections. However, as to abbesses, it is said that they have not ordinary authority, but delegated as it were, on account of the danger of men and women living together. But Debbora exercised authority in temporal, not in priestly matters, even as now woman may have temporal power.

    SWR

  10. Mr. Reed.

    I am not questioning the virginity of the BVM. But the Holy Scriptures refer to James of Jerusalem, James the Just as Christ's brother. The Orthodox Churches remember him as the "Brother of the Lord." I do not presume to question exactly how this works. Quite frankly, it does not matter to me.

    But that was not the question I was asking.

    1. Paterian, whatever the Church can or cannot do, "the Church" does not mean "the Church of England". A little more – no, a great deal more – humility on the part of the C of E is required, and we ought to have listened to what our friends in east and west were telling us.

      1. Sambo:

        Respectfully, why? Neither the East nor the West cares what the Anglican Church says or does. Remember, Anglican orders are "Absolutely void and utterly null." And this too was re-affirmed by Pope John Paul II. While there is some connection between the Anglicans, the Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox, it is tenuous at best. The Orthodox are clear that anyone who is non-Orthodox is not a member of the Church. When asked what could be done to heal the breach between what JPII called the "two lungs of the Church," the Ecumenical Patriarch declared that the Catholics needed to return to Orthodoxy. There have been "bonds of affection" between the Orthodox and the Anglicans, but nothing that even closely resembles communion. And Rome still declares "extra ecclesiam nullam sanctam est." In order for Anglicans to become Roman Catholic, they will need to recognize that the sacraments of the Anglican church are invalid. Priests will enter as laymen and *might* be re-ordained. Baptism will be handled by economia, but let's not pretend everyone will trot down to the RCC and "become Catholic." It will require a complete conversion.

        1. I would say that Anglicans coming back to Rome would need to recognize that the "Protestant Anglicans/Episcopalians" sacraments are invalid. And that Anglicans in communion with Rome that now have valid sacraments be referred to as "Catholic Anglicans or Roman Catholics of the Anglican Use, or simply Anglican Catholics in communion with the See of Rome". Wasn't there before the Reformation Roman Catholics of the Sarum Use and York Use etcc., only really differenciated by certain liturgical variances. I would also add that Priests entering as layman *most likely* will be re-ordained. A complete conversion yes, in regards to accepting the Catholic Faith as a whole. But fortunately for *ALL* Catholics, a new patrimony that we can now be enriched by. Many mainstream Roman Catholics are rediscovering the richnesses of the TLM. And now we can add the Anglican Patrimony to that. What a great time we live in!!.

          1. J.M.J.

            All the talk about "complete conversion" may apply to some but not to others. Some of us have been believing and teaching the Objective Truth of the Catholic Faith for years, and looking to the day the Holy See would respond to the request made many years ago by the TAC. Our 141 year old parish came to the ACA for this reason – knowing the Ordinariates would be coming.

            There are plenty of us that "converted" long ago and have been using this time to work toward the implementation of what will end up being the Ordinariates, this process having been coming for a LONG time.

            Please save the condescending tone about once we have a "complete conversion" as if that is something that will happen once the Ordinariate is in place.

            SWR

            1. Mr. Reed:

              You said: "Some of us have been believing and teaching the Objective Truth of the Catholic Faith for years." Then why didn't you convert when you were convinced of this? Why wait?

  11. I cannot speak for Mr. Reed, but as a former Anglo Catholic, they have always felt they were Catholic and just as many Latin Rite Catholics have a great attachment to the TLM and many have left the Catholic Church to join schismatic groups, it would be very difficult for ones who loved their liturgy to leave for the NO Mass that has been in place for over 40 years, which in some places seem much more protestant than the liturgy they celebrate or some of the preaching heard in many of the NO parishes. I myself have wondered at times if I was in a Catholic Church or a protestant one.

    As a Catholic now I see many "Catholics" who are not really Catholic in their beliefs, but more in line with the Episcopal church and you must wonder why they don't just leave.

    It is a complicated matter and if you are Anglo Catholic the fact that there is an Anglican Use already established there could have been the hope of an AU parish being established close to them, but just as the TLM has been denied by most of the Bishops, so has the Anglican Use. Of course with the Ordinariate this will no longer be a problem.

    I have no idea if your Catholic, Orthodox or part of a schism group. Why the harsh judgement on others? When the Holy Spirit moves within a person's heart is when they can discern what the truth is. Actually there is much of what has gone on in the Anglican Communion going on today in Catholic parishes, the difference is that we have the Papacy to keep the true doctrines and faith. Although we do have safeguards within the Church, there are millions of Catholics that are not following the Catholic teachings, including Bishops, priests and laypeople. Instead of critizing Anglicans coming into the Church you should be praising the Lord for this great movement.

    Hopefully posters on the Anglo Catholic will always be charitable towards one another, as thoughtless remarks will just turn people away from the Church. I don't know you, but have seen the same type of remarks on other websites from the NO crowd and just as some of the TLM crowd feel they are superior in some way to Catholics who want the NO, there are many NO Catholics that think the TLM Catholics lord it over them.

    I would think that any Catholic in line with the Church would submit to the Holy Father and apparently he has decided for the whole Church that the Ordinariate is the path Anglicans should take to enter the Church, not your decision to make nor the decisions of Catholic priests or Bishops, but the very head of the Holy Catholic Church.

  12. J.M.J.

    Paterian wrote:

    "…Then why didn't you convert when you were convinced of this? Why wait?"

    Quite simply, because believing that the Catholic Faith most fully subsists in the Roman Catholic Church, and knowing what will end up as the Ordinariates were coming, it was simply a question of how to help bring the greatest number of people to become a fully integrated part of The Church, led by the Successor of Peter.

    The greatest number of people will come to be part of The Church led by the Successor of Peter this way, than were for us as individuals to be picked off one by one and leave no leadership to help guide the process for "Groups of Anglicans."

    Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, et ibi ecclesia vita eterna.
    Where there is Peter there is the Church,where there is the Church there is life eternal!
    — St. Ambrose of Milan

    Faithfully,

    Sean W. Reed

  13. So you have known that the Church of Peter is the One True Church, yet you have remained in the "false" Church, by Rome's definition, waiting for the Ordinariate? I'm sorry, that seems rather disingenuous to me! If one knew that one was the truth and one was false (and that the sacraments of the Anglican Church were false, again, by Rome's definition) why would one remain in darkness and not rush towards the light?

    1. J.M.J.

      Paterian -

      Perhaps because the Holy See has advised us to be patient and wait for the Ordinariate.

      Had the Holy See advised us to stop what we are doing and not wait for the Ordinariate and to go as individuals that might be one thing, but that is not what they advised.

      We have elected to take the advise and counsel of the Holy See instead of the suggestions of people like yourself, or the One, Holy, Anglican Church headquartered in Athens, Georgia —Rawk Rawk!

      SWR

  14. Mr. Reed:

    I'm not advising you to do anything. That would certainly not be my place. One must follow the dictates of one's own conscience.

    I have no idea what you're talking about regarding the Anglican Church in Athens, Georgia. Perhaps you could explain?

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